If USDA was not the government, would the law look at the way it uses the “organic” label as “misbranding” or possibility a claim that it just cannot substantiate?

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is the federal government, and the law does not apply to Uncle Sam.   And, it is the AMS that runs the National Organic Program.   It can freely do what might cause you and I some painful time in court.

Take for example that the AMS-run National Organic Standards Board maintains a list of non-organic ingredients that can be labeled as organic.  Let me say that another way: USDA has a list of stuff that can be labeled as “certified organic” even if they’ve been doused with chemicals and pesticides.

“Organic” is not on the menu at the Moxee, WA-based Hop Growers of America.  Nor is it likely to be, because hops are on the national list of non-organics that may be labeled organic.  Hops got on the list in 2007 because, it was said, there are too few domestically grown organic hops.

All of you who have been paying extra for “organic beer” are victims of consumer fraud brought to you by USDA’s organic program.  Fat chance you can do anything about it. 


My head has been spinning about the federal organic program since I accidently stepped into it.  It began simply enough a couple of weeks ago when a California association lost its accreditation for certifying organic producers and haulers.

I was curious about what happened to those it had certified as “organic.”  Were they now de-certified?  As it turned out, nothing changes for a certified organic producer if its agent is decertified.   The organic producer or hauler remains certified, but needs to go through the process with another agent.

The first sentence on that story said; “Twenty years after Congress put the federal government in the business of promoting pesticide and chemical free agriculture, USDA’s Organic label is now a trusted symbol.”

If I had it to do over again, I think I would write: “Twenty years after Congress put USDA in charge of marketing the Organic label, there is more confusion than ever about buying pesticide- and chemical-free food.”

This adjustment in my thinking occurred in part because Harry Hamil at the Black Mountain Farmers Market in North Carolina challenged me to take another look at it, and because I’ve now actually read that 20-year old federal law setting up the National Organic Program.

Federal laws, if you haven’t heard, are pretty wordy documents.   If the NOP were really about chemical- and pesticide-free food, those goals and objectives would be spelled out then and there, and they’re not.  

Hamil says the NOP “assured that almost all certified organic food is sprayed with pesticides and herbicides.”   He is certainly right when it comes to hops, and if USDA is going to play that fast and loose in one area, why would consumers trust the rest of it? 


It makes me wonder if the certified organic community could stand up to independent testing.

If you want organic beer in America, you may wish to join the petition to USDA to end this hop charade.